Remembering our Rats of Tobruk this Anzac Day

Lance/Sergeant Jack Holloway, Corporal Kenneth Crutchett and Private Patrick Coady pictured in Canowindra in 1997 and below each of the men during their service.

Lance/Sergeant Jack Holloway, Corporal Kenneth Crutchett and Private Patrick Coady pictured in Canowindra in 1997 and below each of the men during their service.

Three aging soldiers, Jack Holloway, Kenneth Crutchett and Patrick Coady, from WW2 came together for the last time in 1997.

On Anzac Day they proudly marched down Gaskill Street to Memorial Park.

Each of these men served in the Middle East as part of the 9th Division, Jack from Forbes in the 2/15 Battalion, Kenneth from Canowindra in 2/13 Battalion and Patrick from Canowindra in the Provost Coy, later joining the 1st Australian Para Troop Battalion.

All these men were among the proud soldiers, known as the "Rats of Tobruk", sadly they all passed away in a very short period of time following this photo being taken.

Words from my father, Jack Holloway: "On April 10, 1941 the Australians began the defence of Tobruk, under the command of General Morshead, the 9th Division advance as far as Benghazi, but we were not equipped to withstand the assault of Field Marshal Rommel and the Panzer Division.

"The 9th Division could do nothing but fall back and fight a rear guard action. It was then we reached Tobruk and dug in and defied the German might, it was the beginning of the famous Siege of Tobruk, and the first time the Germans were repulsed in World War 2".

Following the Siege of Tobruk, the 9th Division was rushed to El-Alamein to help halt the German advance, to drive Field Marshal Rommel and his German and Italian Forces out of North Africa, it was code named the "Alamein Attack".

The 9th Division were then withdrawn from action and made ready to return to Australia, to meet with the Japanese advance in the Pacific.

The following is from the Australian War Memorial:

Between April and August 1941 around 14,000 Australian soldiers were besieged in Tobruk by a German-Italian army commanded by General Erwin Rommel. The garrison, commanded by Lieutenant General Leslie Morshead, consisted of the 9th Division, the 18th Brigade of the 7th Division, along with four regiments of British artillery and some Indian troops.

It was vital for the Allies' defence of Egypt and the Suez Canal to hold the town with its harbour, as this forced the enemy to bring most of their supplies overland from the port of Tripoli, across 1500km of desert, as well as diverting troops from their advance. Tobruk was subject to repeated ground assaults and almost constant shelling and bombing.

Half the Australian garrison was relieved in August, the rest in September-October.

However, 2/13 Battalion could not be evacuated and was still there when the siege was lifted on December 10, the only unit present for the entire siege.

Australian casualties from the 9th Division from April 8 to October 25 numbered 749 killed, 1,996 wounded and 604 prisoners. The total losses in the 9th Division and attached troops from 1st March to 15th December amounted to 832 killed, 2,177 wounded and 941 prisoners.